I visited more than 100 classrooms during the 10 years I spent as KidsPost editor. Teachers who would call or e-mail to request a visit were almost always stunned when my response was, “I’d love to come to your class to talk about writing and reading.” I even developed a mini-curriculum, with handouts and worksheets to allow students to be “junior reporters.”
Those were some of the most rewarding days I spent in that job. The kids were overwhelmingly bright and curious. Those school visits resulted in more stories that came from student ideas than I’d like to admit.
And at the end of the visit, more than a few teachers and principals paid me the ultimate compliment, saying that I would make a great teacher.
Not in a million years. Yes, those days were enormously rewarding. They were also exhausting. And we’re talking about me going to one or two classes once or twice a month.
I cannot fathom how teachers do it, day in and day out, year in and year out.
And so, in that spirit of awe of the teaching profession, I encourage all parents reading this to make a “new school year’s resolution.”
Let your kids’ teachers do their job. Assume that they are equipped to do what they have been trained and are paid to do. Be involved in your child’s school and education, but try to do it in a way that is supportive of the teachers. In short: Meddle less.
This is hard — believe me, I know — especially when your kids are young, and learning the basics is so important. After all, those first years of school are really the first time your child is being judged by nonfamily members. It’s only natural to revert to mama grizzly mode of protecting your young, the first time your cub’s coloring or penmanship comes under scrutiny.
I am not saying you should not be involved in your child’s education, or that you shouldn’t help with homework, volunteer at the school library or raise a red flag if you have a serious concern. No one will ever be a better advocate for your child than you.
But as your child gets older (and by that, I really mean third grade and up), you need to make sure he understands that part of what he is learning at school is to advocate for himself. Did his teacher mark something wrong on his math test that was clearly correct? Johnny — not Johnny’s dad — should be the person pointing that out to the teacher. Or maybe all of Johnny’s previous teachers loved him and gave him special privileges, while this year’s teacher seems less enchanted. Mom or Dad should not intervene to get Johnny switched into another teacher’s class.
Why? Don’t both of these examples simply represent a parent advocating for his child?
Perhaps. But part of what school teaches kids is how to navigate in the real world. Granted, school is a microcosm — and a sheltered one, at that. But a child who can’t talk to a teacher about a mistaken grade or who can’t find a way to function with a lot of different types of people will have a hard time in that bigger, badder world out there.
That’s one of the most important lessons your child’s teacher can share with him. This year, vow to take a deep breath and be less inclined to weigh in when your child has a minor, everyday type of concern with a teacher.
Encourage him to be a responsible student. Assume the teacher knows what he is doing.
And your student may wind up learning lessons for a lifetime.